Hype Your Habits

One of my favourite authors, James Clear, defines habits as the compound interest of self-improvement. He wrote the #1 New York Times bestseller “Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones,” a highly praised self-help book designed to reshape the way we think about progress and success. After I read this book, I felt like I had a stronger understanding of the framework of how habits are formed, and it familiarized me with the scientific research behind habit formation. The bitesize chapters and simple anecdotes were practical, digestible, and thought-provoking.

We are all habitual creatures. We live our lives on autopilot and often don’t realize how deeply our habits are engrained into our daily routine.

Before we dive into it, what even is a habit? Habits are little decisions and behaviours we make/do every day. These can be helpful or harmful. Our lives, fundamentally, are the sum of our habits—from nutrition to stress to exercise.

Here are some examples of positive habits you may want to incorporate into your daily routine:

  • Writing in a gratitude journal
  • Washing your hands
  • Reading every day
  • Going to bed at a certain time to ensure you get a good night’s sleep
  • Drinking water regularly
  • Brushing your teeth after eating a meal

Here are some examples of habits you may want to break:

  • Mindless scrolling on social media
  • Eating too much junk food
  • Biting your nails
  • Leaving your dirty clothes on the floor
  • Drinking coffee or other caffeinated drinks close to bedtime

When you want to incorporate a new healthy habit into your daily life, there are four laws of behaviour change that can help make habits stick. These tips can also be reversed to break negative habits.

  1. Make it obvious: the more obvious or visible it is, the more likely it will stick. To break a habit, put it out of sight—the less obvious or visible it is, the less likely you will be to engage.
  2. Make it attractive: the more appealing, the more motivated you will feel to do it. For breaking bad habits, make it unattractive so you will be less tempted to do it.
  3. Make it easy: the more simple, convenient, and frictionless a habit is, the more likely is to be performed. Break a bad habit by making it hard or less convenient. Put up some barriers.
  4. Make it more satisfying: the more enjoyable, and the more you get a sense of pleasure, it gives your brain a signal to repeat in the future. To break a habit, make it less satisfying. The more you do not enjoy it, the more it gives your brain a signal to not repeat again in the future.

Habit stacking can also help. Habit stacking is a strategy you can use to incorporate small changes into a routine that you have already established. The key to consistency is to treat a habit stack like a single action, rather than a series of individual tasks. In other words, try meditating right after you brush your teeth in the morning, adding a piece of fruit with your lunch, or doing some stretches immediately after your workout.

At this point, I’m sure you understand just how POWERFUL out habits are, and how they shape who we are—from our actions to our attitudes. The truth is that forming positive habits is not always easy, and as you may already be able to imagine, some habits are harder or easier to form than others. For example, replacing your morning coffee with a tea latte might be easier than quitting all forms of caffeine at once.

I like to think of building healthy habits like developing the major pillars of personal growth. With these tips, hopefully you will feel propelled to learn more and improve your life little by little. I wish you all the success in establishing good habits moving forward!

For information on the services I offer, please don’t hesitate to email me at studywithjoanne@gmail.com or visit my Contact page for more ways to reach me.

Photo by Melanie Deziel on Unsplash

Mind Your Mind: 10 Tips for Mastering Your Mindset

“What you think about you bring about. Your whole life is a manifestation of the thoughts that go on in your head.” — Rhonda Byrne, The Secret

I’m a strong believer in the idea that “what you think about, you bring about.” This quote by author and documentarian Rhonda Byrne means a lot to me and is one of my favourites because of how its truth resonates with me and my life. It’s not that you can just think about winning the lottery right now and hear from the Lotto 6/49 tonight. Instead, it’s a bit more insidious—the things we think about will creep into our actions and behaviours. For instance, someone who always thinks about their friendships will make ample time to dedicate to their friends. A person who values spiritual health, and cherishes their religion, will focus their behaviours in a way that reflects this key value.

The second part of her quote is that “your whole life is a manifestation of the thoughts that go on in your head.”

Do you ever pause to think about the thoughts that run through your mind? What do you spend the most time thinking about? What occupies your brain during your waking hours, and where do these thoughts come from?

I’ve always been drawn to the premise of mind power and mind techniques. Once I learned that most of the thoughts that we experience in a day are negative, I’ve been shifting my attention to my learned thoughts and beliefs. My goal is to unlearn the counterproductive ones to make room for new, productive thoughts.

Science agrees—those who have a positive mindset benefit from lower stress levels, longer lives, better overall mental health, increased academic success, and more! Before we dive into it, what exactly is a mindset? Experts define one’s mindset as a set of attitudes, values, frame of mind, and disposition. Mindsets arise from someone’s world view or their life philosophy.

In this blog post, I’ll summarize ten of my favourite tips for mastering your mindset.

  1. Develop a growth mindset. A growth mindset means that you believe your intelligence and talents can be developed over time, as opposed to a fixed mindset where you believe intelligence is fixed—so if you’re not good at something, you might believe you’ll never be good at it.
  2. Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness focuses our attention on what we are experiencing in the present moment. This practice helps us experience events as they are, instead of getting lost in the past or future.
  3. Marvelous meditation. Meditation is a mental exercise that involves relaxation, focus, and awareness. Meditation is to the mind what physical exercise is to the body. The practice is usually done individually, in a still seated position, and with eyes closed.
  4. Gratitude is a must. When you focus on what’s good in your life, you will notice more goodness in your life. Taking time to practice gratitude has been proven to have many benefits. Try writing down three things you’re grateful for each day!
  5. Jot it down in a journal. Journaling can help clarify thoughts and feelings, know yourself better, and solve problems effectively. Try journaling to reduce stress. Writing out your emotions can help reduce the intensity of those feelings, which can help you to feel calmer and better able to stay in the present. Journaling can help you track patterns/growth.
  6. The power of positive affirmations. Positive affirmations are simple statements that fill your brain with positive self-talk to manifest your intentions. Affirmations help us focus on actions we want to manifest, and by verbalizing them, we feel empowered. Think of it as rewiring our brains by filling them with hormones! Affirmations can break patterns of negative thoughts.
  7. Picture perfect. Visualizations are very powerful. Your subconscious does not know the difference between what it has imagined vs. what has happened. When you have a goal, picture yourself achieving that goal. Use your imagination and try to feel how you would feel if you were there.
  8. You are the company you keep. Energy is contagious! You pick up the energy of those around you. So, if you are around negative people, then you may start to think negatively yourself.
  9. There’s an app for that. There’s an app for pretty much everything. Here are a few of my faves: Headspace, Buddhify, Calm, Calm The Storm, Healthy Minds, Perspective.
  10. Seek support if you need it. If you are having difficulty remaining positive, then you may need some support. Getting some help can sometimes make a huge difference. Reach out to a trusted person in your life or seek the help of a professional.

Our mindsets are so important for setting us up for success and helping us curate the beautiful lives we want to life. Remind yourself of the power of the thoughts you replay in your mind. They’ll become your beliefs and define your life experiences.

Since we live in a world of thought patterns and beliefs (our thoughts create our experiences!), you really are what you think! I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for us to pay attention to our inner dialogue. In fact, I talk about it at all my workshops! After all, our inner dialogue conditions and controls us, so it’ll be beneficial to think in ways that encourage us to do better. Positive thoughts and controlling your mindset in general can make a major difference for your mental health. I wish you a happy and healthy mind journey!

Thank you for reading.

For information on the services I offer, please don’t hesitate to email me at studywithjoanne@gmail.com or visit my Contact page for more ways to reach me.

Photo by Artem Kovalev on Unsplash

Wholesome and Nutritious School Lunches

Here we are nearing the end of October… already! By now many students have adjusted to being back in school whether they are there in person or online. No matter where your child is learning this year, it’s essential that they eat well to feel nourished. It can be tempting to send the same foods on repeat for school lunches every day when you find a few options that really work for your child, but it’s important to keep them excited about food by offering variety in textures, shapes, and flavours.

I try to think about serving energy-boosting foods because children spend so much time moving around throughout the day, and learning requires lots of brainpower. In other words, our kids need plenty of energy-increasing nutrients to support their brains and their bodies.

One Ingredient Rule: With every meal or snack, have one thing on your plate that has only one ingredient.

If it were up to my son Justin, he would have a bag of chips as a snack for recess every single day! He definitely gets his love of salty snacks from me, so I introduced the One Ingredient Rule in our home, which means that with every meal or snack we have, there has to be one thing on our plate that only has one ingredient, such as apple, carrots, cucumbers, or bananas. Fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds are all only made up of ONE ingredient, not a whole long list of ingredients that you can’t even pronounce. The next time you go to grab a snack that’s in a package, take a look at the ingredient list and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

In our busy lives that are filled with classes, study sessions, and extracurriculars, it’s more important than ever to stay well-nourished and energetic. So, don’t let food take a back seat! I know it’s so easy to grab fast food, but taking some time to prepare homemade meals will always be worth it.

Here are some inexpensive, nutritious foods that get an A+! All the ideas here are modifiable to suit your own taste/ingredient preferences, and I always suggest adding a side of fresh fruit or vegetables for a wholesome and balanced meal.

  • Spinach mac and cheese
  • Vegetable and egg fried rice
  • Ground meat stir-fry
  • Black bean quesadillas
  • Frittata (like a crustless quiche!)
  • Meatballs with sauce
  • Overnight oats
  • “Lunchables” box with crackers, cheese, meat, nuts, and dried fruit
  • Pesto chicken and vegetables
  • Cream cheese tea sandwiches
  • Spicy noodle stir-fry
  • Samosas
  • Vegetable grilled cheese
  • Burrito bowls
  • Cold noodles with cucumber
  • Hummus snack box with veggies, pita, or anything else you like to snack on!
  • Curried spinach chickpeas
  • Fruit sandwiches

I like to make sure I buy in bulk for better prices and keep an eye on the sale section. Meal prepping also goes a long way! One final tip I have is to try to create low-waste lunches. I usually pack food and drinks in reusable containers. Being healthy and helping our environment is a win-win in my opinion.

Happy (and healthy) snacking!

For information on the services I offer, please don’t hesitate to email me at studywithjoanne@gmail.com or visit my Contact page for more ways to reach me.

Cover photo by Anthony Shkraba from Pexels | Photo by Ella Olsson on Unsplash

Going Back to School in a COVID World

With school starting up again, there are definite anxieties that exist surrounding COVID and safety measures. I think this is a great time to remind yourself (and your children) of key safety precautions. We all have a role to play to contribute to the health of our communities, and this includes keeping our hands clean and wearing a face covering.

Here are some tips:

As many people will be returning to in-person work and learning, it’s important to find out what the policy is on masks at your workplace and your child’s school.  If there is no mask mandate in place, then you have to decide what you feel comfortable with.  This may mean that you choose to continue wearing a mask, even if it is not required.  I recommend having a conversation with the members in your household to discuss your thoughts and feelings about wearing masks.  Decide what you feel comfortable with as a family and establish a plan to ensure that you are all safe and protected.  It’s also helpful to do an inventory of what you already have in terms of reusable and disposable masks and stock up on what you need now so that you are well equipped. 

Recommended hand-washing technique:

1. Always wet your hands before applying soap.

2. Lather and scrub for at least 15 seconds, including the fingers, thumbs and wrist.

3. Rinse well with water and dry your hands with paper towels.

Keeping your hands clean is also an important factor in keeping you and your family safe this school year.   Be sure to stock up on hand sanitizer and keep some in your home, your car, your purse, and in your children’s backpacks.  When using hand sanitizers, make sure you are using it correctly!  Rub it on your hands (fingers, thumbs, and wrist, too!) for at least 15 seconds. If your hands are visibly dirty, soap and water is the best choice.

Make sure your hands are clean before and after touching your mask. Avoid touching your mask, and change it when it gets dirty. If you plan to wear your mask again, store it in a breathable container (e.g., dry paper bag or envelope) or wash it. Make sure your mask snugly covers your nose, mouth, and chin without big gaps. Avoid wearing your mask under your chin, hanging off one ear, or touching/sharing masks. It’s also important to remember to keep a distance from others while wearing your mask.

Keeping your health a priority is so important and we need to do our best to ensure we are keeping ourselves and our families safe.  Teaching your children the steps to wear their masks and to properly clean their hands is a great way to make sure you are doing your part to avoid getting sick and to help keep others around you healthy as well.  Be sure to speak with a healthcare practitioner if you need additional advice on staying well during the pandemic.

Wishing you a safe and healthy school year ahead.

For information on the services I offer, please don’t hesitate to email me at studywithjoanne@gmail.com or visit my Contact page for more ways to reach me.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Must-Have School Supplies

It’s that time of year again! Before we know it, school will be back in session. I personally am always excited by the prospect of new school supplies. With that, I find the back-to-school season a great time to stock up on basics and get reorganized. I always look forward to getting prepared for a new and successful academic year.

Here’s a list to get you started with school supplies:

For younger students:

  • Colourful art supplies are a must!
  • Pencils and erasers are a good choice for those learning to write. If you are concerned about proper finger placement, a pencil grip can help to ensure a tripod grasp is achieved which can reduce any pain from holding the pencil incorrectly.
  • Stick-on labels are recommended so that younger students can easily keep track of their belongings.  You can order pre-printed labels with your child’s name or blank ones that you write on yourself.

For college or university students:

  • Pens, white-out, and highlighters make note-taking easy and interesting. Keep these in a nice pencil case!
  • Sticky notes and index cards are useful for writing notes and studying.
  • Disposable ear plugs can also be helpful when studying in noisy and distracting environments

For everyone:

  • A daily planner can help people of all ages keep track of their own schedules and settle into a new semester.
  • I’m obsessed with erasable gel pens.  They are perfect for writing in your agenda as you can easily make changes when needed.
  • Notebooks are essential for taking good notes.
  • A dry-erase board can be helpful for jotting down reminders and to-dos.

Whether you head to the dollar store, a department store, or your favourite online store, the earlier you start thinking about your back-to-school needs, the more selection you will find both in store and online.  Happy shopping!

How to Help Your Kids Get Back on Track This September

Research shows that children benefit from routines, and having this consistency in their lives is helpful. The problem with the pandemic, though, is that it’s turned our routines upside-down with bedtimes and typical routines changing. Throwing a 2-month summer break on top of that may leave many parents wondering how they will get their children ready to go back to school in a few weeks. 

If you’re starting to feel anxious about getting back into the swing of things this Fall, you are not alone.  I am in the exact same boat.  My 9-year-old son has been staying up late almost every single night and spending way too much time on screens now that his summer camp is finished.  In thinking about how I will go about getting him back into a routine, I decided to put on my Learning Strategist hat and utilize the strategies I recommend to many of the students that I work with.  Here is what I have come up with and the strategies I will be implementing over the next few weeks in hopes that we can start out strong this September.

The first thing I plan to do is ensure I have a really positive mindset about school.  I will show enthusiasm about getting organized and help set the tone that school is exciting and learning is fun.  This is really helpful for children as they really do feed off the cues of the adults around them.  If you treat school like it’s something pleasant then your children are more likely to catch that vibe too.

Next, I will work on re-establishing self-care routines which will include getting my son ready for bed a little bit earlier every night.  If you don’t start weaning children off the late nights, they can have a really hard time adjusting once the school year starts.  Sleep is such a crucial factor for learning and being tired definitely makes paying attention and remembering a lot more difficult. 

After that, I will move onto dealing with the screens.  My son loves to play games on his iPad and watch YouTube videos.  He will would watch videos all day long if I’d let him! My plan is to give him a solid time limit and stick to it.  I will slowly begin to decrease the amount of screen time he gets so that when school begins it isn’t such a drastic change.  Many of the things that our children engage with on a screen are highly addictive and if you do not start to curb those addictions now, it may be more challenging to do so once school starts. 

Since we don’t know what lies ahead of us in terms of a potential 4th wave, now is also a great time to reflect on how things went during the previous lockdowns.  Thinking about what went well and what didn’t go so well can help you to be prepared if we happen to find ourselves in the same position again. 

Remember—you don’t need to have the same routine as you had in 2019 back when things were “normal.”  Taking this time to prepare and reset can be a great opportunity for you and your family to evaluate what you value about daily life and what you wish to keep from the quarantine life (e.g., evening family time).

And if you feel like you need some support in getting your child back on track, I will be hosting my Get Back on Track Workshops this week.  These workshops will cover strategies for how to get in gear for this upcoming school year including:

  • Self-care, mental health and well-being
  • Time management and organizational skills
  • Decreasing digital distractions
  • Strategies for improving focus and productivity
  • How to read and take notes in class
  • How to study and learn more efficiently and effectively

I will be offering the following workshops to meet the needs of students of all ages:

I’d love it if you joined me.  Let’s get back on track together.

Ready to Re-Invent Your Routine? My Top 5 Tips for Easing Back Into Your Back-to-School Schedule

Develop a morning or end-of-day ritual.

Set a sleep schedule and get enough sleep.

Make the most of your meals.

Reflect and seek support if you need it.

Schedule your self-care.

It can be difficult to re-establish routines after any time of disruption, whether it be a big move or a new job. The COVID-19 pandemic was certainly one such disruption, and if you’re like me, changes have affected all parts of your life, including what you eat, where you spend your free time, how you handle money, when/where you exercise, and more. And now as summer is rapidly coming to an end, it’s time to start thinking about getting back into a routine so you can ensure that you are healthy and happy as we look forward to the Fall season ahead.

This September will bring about changes for many of us.  Maybe you will be heading back to work in person for the first time in a long time, or maybe you or your children will be heading back to school.  Regardless of your situation, it is important to plan and prepare for this transition and a great way to do that is by re-establishing a routine.  Humans are very habitual creatures, and a solid routine can help to ensure you are doing what you need to do to be the best version of you.  Here are my top 5 tips for getting back into a routine as seamlessly as possible.

Photo by Laura Chouette on Unsplash
  1. Develop a morning and/or end of the day ritual.  Start getting into the habit of doing something just for yourself in the morning before work or school.  I personally do what I call my morning “commute” before my workday begins. For me, I take a refreshing 5 km walk each morning. This gives me a great mental energy boost and brightens my mood before I start my work for the day. This can help set a boundary between work time and personal time. You can also replicate this at the end of your day by having an “end of day” ritual (e.g., doing a YouTube workout after work, or having a video call with friends). 
  1. Set up a sleep schedule and ensure you are consistently getting adequate sleep.  In order to have enough time for my walk, I have to make sure I wake up early enough.  I also find that getting up early helps me to feel less frazzled and rushed and more organized and in control of my time.  But waking up early means going to bed at decent hour.  So now is a great time to work on curbing your habit of late-night scrolling or binge-watching and aiming to get to bed earlier.  Try creating a more purposeful bedtime routine that includes reading or meditating or another calming screen-free activity.  Ensuring you are getting the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep each night can really make a huge difference and help to give you the energy you need to be productive during the day.
Photo by S’well on Unsplash
  1. Make the most of your meals. Now is also a great time to get in the habit of meal planning and prepping.  If you make this a regular part of your routine, you will be amazed at how much easier it is to ensure you and your family are eating healthy, balanced meals.  Meal planning is not only healthier, but it also saves you a lot of money!  Meal planning is extremely helpful for me because I can cook in bulk and not worry about preparing meals all the time.  It can also be very beneficial to try to keep healthy foods around and easily accessible. Think: healthy snacks like blueberries on yogurt as a midafternoon study snack! I also always keep frozen vegetables on hand because they’re so easy to add to pasta and stews.
  1. Reflect and reach out for support if you need it.  Take some time to really think about how things are going in different areas of your life.  If you think certain areas can use some improvement, now is a great time to reach out for help.  There are always resources out there and people who are willing to assist you. If you’re a student, you can reach out to you teachers, professors, or TA’s.  Remember that these people are experts, and it’s their job to support you and your learning goals. Even if you’re not a student, if you are struggling with any area of your life, it can help to speak to a trusted person or even a professional to get the assistance you need.  I think it’s so important to recognize that life can sometimes be challenging, but you don’t have to face your struggles alone. Getting additional help can often make a huge difference in your ability to cope with life’s challenges. 
Photo by Andrew Heald on Unsplash
  1. Schedule your self-care.  And last, but certainly not least… self-care is essential and should be always be on the top of your list of priorities. Think about your day and how you will make time for things that will fill your cup such as exercise, mediation and journaling.  All things that have proven benefits to your mental health and overall well-being but unfortunately are often the first thing to be sacrificed when life gets busy. If you schedule in time for your self-care, then you will be much more likely to follow through with your plan.  Try adding time into your calendar just like you would for a meeting and make it non-negotiable.  Remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup so taking time for yourself is not selfish, it’s necessary so you can not only survive, but thrive.  At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about. 

It certainly takes time to establish a routine, and acknowledging that things don’t happen right away is key. Be patient with yourself as you work to re-establish your routine and be consistent! You got this.

For information on the services I offer, please don’t hesitate to email me at studywithjoanne@gmail.com or visit my Contact page for more ways to reach me.

Photo by Content Pixie from Pexels

Ready or Not… It’s Time! Back-to-School Shopping Advice From Your Favourite Learning Strategist!

I know, I know… you may not be ready to start thinking about back-to-school shopping quite yet, but here we are at the beginning of August and, before you know it, you will blink and it will be time for students to head back. 

Based on my experience as both a Learning Strategist and a Mom, I can confidently say that now is the best time to start thinking about back-to-school shopping if you haven’t already.  Getting organized early will help to make the transition less stressful, especially considering many students who may be returning to school in-person this September will be doing so for the first time in a long time.  That being said, with looming threats of a potential 4th wave, there may still be a lot of uncertainty about whether your child will be going back to school on Zoom or in the classroom.

“The other big question mark remaining around back-to-school season is when parents will start to do most of their shopping. Some parents still don’t know yet whether or not their kids will be back in the classroom, and as such may not be ready to kick off back to school shopping at the end of July, when sales have traditionally started.”


Whether you have already made a list of things you need or you haven’t spent one single second thinking about it, here are some tips that can help:

I find it very important—and cost-effective!—to take inventory of all supplies you already have. There are certain items that are required each year, and it’s important to review what you have left over from previous years to avoid unnecessary spending. As you conduct this inventory, you can make a list of items you need and understand which supplies you actually need to purchase. It is also a good idea to see if your child’s teacher or school has provided a list of recommended items.  Walmart also has great checklists by grade level from Kindergarten to College.

I also recommend doing the back-to-school shopping a little earlier than you’d like! Prices may go up as we get closer to Labour Day, and options may become more scarce. I also try to keep an eye out for prices from different stores since, for instance, costs may differ between Walmart and Staples. Online price comparisons and flyers can be helpful for spotting the best sales.

Consider quality vs. quantity as well! There are certain supplies where you may wish to purchase more heavy-duty products. For example, middle schoolers are likely to toss around their three-ring binders, and flimsy binders can result in missing sheets and poor organization. Backpacks may also be an important place to shoot for quality. A properly fitted backpack, especially one with padded shoulder straps and back, can prevent insidious injuries for your child’s joints. If their school supplies and books are too heavy, a rolling backpack is a great and ergonomic option.

I always recommend planners—they’re essential for helping people stay organized, especially those who have trouble with deadlines. With that, great school supplies in general can certainly make organization and academic work less stressful and more enjoyable.

I have a confession, I actually love shopping for back-to-school supplies! It helps me move back into the back-to-school mindset. There’s also something about having new school supplies that motivates students to learn.  So, whatever you decide for you or your child this September, it will be helpful to get organized early and purchase the supplies you need in advance.  Why not start now?! Consider this your friendly reminder. 

For information on the services I offer, please don’t hesitate to email me at studywithjoanne@gmail.com or visit my Contact page for more ways to reach me.

Photo by olia danilevich from Pexels

How to Avoid Going Back to Pre-Pandemic Busyness

I’ve waited for this moment for over a year!  The moment when it is announced that the world is about to re-open.  When I will be able to shop in my favourite stores and eat in my favourite restaurants… INSIDE the restaurant at that!  This is definitely cause for celebration.  From malls and movie theatres to concerts and campsites, it’s all very exciting. So why do I feel this impending sense of doom?  As much as I had been looking forward to the freedom of being able to see my friends and family again, when my calendar started to fill up with plans for brunches and backyard get-togethers, I started to feel anxious.  When I took the time to reflect, I realized that this anxiety was a combination of two things: one, a concern for safety, which makes total sense after being in lockdown for so long; and two, I was anxious about going back to the level of busy that had been my norm pre-pandemic.  And this was a level of busy that I was not looking forward to becoming reacquainted with.

The second reason surprised me. I have always considered myself a busy person.  I am definitely the go-go-go type.  I almost always have something to do as someone who works full time, is a wife and mother, and runs my own business. But when the pandemic hit, I relished in the slower pace of life.  I was able to start taking daily walks, meditate each morning, and consistently get eight hours of sleep.  I prioritized my mental and physical health in ways that I never had before and it was glorious.  But now as the world was about to re-open, I wondered if I would be able to continue to do those things that I had grown to love so much. Or would the busyness take over and consume my life? 

I spoke to a few friends and learned that I was not alone in having this concern.  And I saw a quote from a University of San Diego student named Lily Yates which summed up my feelings exactly: 

“I think people’s increased willingness to intentionally care more for their mental health during the pandemic reveals the problem of just how taboo it is during ‘normal’ times. We shouldn’t need to cite a global pandemic to take extra time for ourselves and set necessary boundaries at work and school. The idea that everyone is ‘okay’ at all times — and that we should pretend we are if we’re not — has been shattered, and it should stay that way.”

One of my good friends put it in perspective for me as well when she said, “Make sure you’re busy out of necessity and not out of habit.”  This really resonated with me because I could certainly see how I previously had lived a life of habitual busyness.  I decided right then and there that, no matter how busy I got, I would protect my time for the things that help me thrive. 

Here’s the list of daily activities that I came up with:

  1. I will continue to go for daily walks.  Getting direct sunlight first thing in the morning improves my mood during the day and my sleep during the night!
  2. On the topic of sleep, I will commit to getting seven or eight hours of sleep every night as this boosts my physical and mental energy.
  3. I will continue to eat healthy with balanced snacks and meals, and drink lots of water.
  4. I will continue to meditate and journal daily as I’ve seen first-hand how positively they both impact my mindset and mood. 

In order to continue to do all of these things, I must prioritize my time and ensure I leave enough space in my calendar to fit everything in, plus schedule some downtime and not let my calendar get too packed.  While this is easier said than done, I have to try because I’ve learned that I operate best when I put on my oxygen mask first.

As we return to pre-pandemic life, it’s natural that anxiety levels may increase.  A lot of us may be feeling uneasy about going back to in-person interactions and doing a lot of the things we did before the whole world shut down. It can be stressful, but it’s important to do what feels best for you and your family as well as continuing to practice recommended safety guidelines such as face coverings and social distancing.  The Government of Canada has a great list of tips and considerations for people going out for personal and social activities.

Wherever you are on your post-pandemic lockdown journey, I wish you the smoothest possible transition and a level of busyness that’s desirable and, most importantly, manageable.  That’s my goal for sure!

For information on the services I offer, please don’t hesitate to email me at studywithjoanne@gmail.com or visit my Contact page for more ways to reach me.

Photo by Covene on Unsplash

No One Said You Had to Do it Alone: How to Get the Support You Need to Succeed

When I reflect back on this past pandemic-filled year, I am pleased to see that despite the many challenges, I have managed to make some really great progress in several areas of my life. I have managed to create a routine that includes working out more consistently, drinking more water, and regularly meditating and journaling. These were all things I had been wanting to do for years but could never seem to find the time/energy/motivation for. And when I think about what contributed to these successes, I realize that a lot had to do with the support I received from others.

When I was younger I used to think that being independent was a goal to strive towards; that there would come a time when I would know everything and be totally self-sufficient and wouldn’t need to rely on others for help. Now that I am working, I see that those thoughts couldn’t have been more wrong. I ask for help ALL THE TIME. I ask my colleagues, my manager, my family, my friends, and my spouse.

At the end of 2019, I joined a Mastermind group with 3 other ladies. We meet 1-2 times per week and share our wins and lessons, we set goals, and we hold each other accountable. I am amazed at the level of support this group provides and honestly think it has been a key factor in maintaining my mental and physical health during this pandemic.

According to Portis (2020), “Research has shown that having a strong support system has many positive benefits, such as higher levels of well-being, better coping skills, and a longer and healthier life. Studies have also shown that social support can reduce depression and anxiety.”

We need support now more than ever as we continue to navigate through these challenging times. Having a support system can make a huge difference. We truly need each other in order to survive and thrive. If you think you could benefit from some support, here are some options to consider:

  • There’s an app for that! It seems that there are countless apps for pretty much anything these days. If you are interested in tracking your habits or your progress, try downloading an app to do it for you. Habit tracking apps can work well because seeing that you have completed a task or have kept a streak going can activate the reward centres in your brain, making it much more likely that you will want to repeat the behaviour again in the future. Some of my fave habit tracking apps are Habitica, Habitify, Strides, and Coach.me.
  • Your partner, a close friend, or a family member. Having an accountability partner — I call it an “accountabil-a-buddy” — can sometimes be the missing link between knowing what you want to accomplish and then taking action to actually get things done. When you rely on your own willpower, you may often fall short because it so easy to talk yourself out of doing things, especially if your brain deems something as undesirable. But knowing that someone is holding you accountable can make a HUGE difference and can often be the small change that leads to big results. A great example is setting a goal to go for a walk every morning and then sending a video to your friend as proof that you actually went!
  • A mastermind group or an online community. Being part of a group with like-minded individuals can inspire and motivate you. Sharing your struggles with your group can help you to gain valuable insight and the support you need to push through challenging obstacles. The structure of these groups can also lead to positive results as the frequently scheduled check-in sessions can allow you to measure and monitor your progress.
  • A mentor or a coach. Learning from someone who has already done what you would like to do can be a game-changer. Often tasks can seem daunting because we tend to focus on the overall result and can have a hard time determining where to begin. A mentor or a coach can help you to break down your goals into smaller, actionable tasks which can make it much easier for you to take the steps needed to reach the outcome you desire.
  • A professional. Working with a therapist can be extremely beneficial, especially if you feel that you are experiencing emotional or mental health concerns. A therapist can help you with many things, including how to better understand why you are struggling, and strategies to cope with life’s many challenges.

As a Learning Strategist, I often tell this to the students I work with: at the end of the day, your report card or transcript won’t say how many times you got help; they are only going to say your grades… so, don’t hesitate to seek the support you need to be successful. I feel that this same principle can be applied to anyone, regardless of their stage in life. There is no “life report card.” No one is keeping track of how many times you ask for help. Often there are many people who actually want to help you, so find your go-to people, seek out new resources, and believe that others genuinely want to see you shine. From this point forward, try to be open to seeking and receiving the help that you need, whenever you may need it on your journey to becoming the best version of you.

For information on the services I offer, please don’t hesitate to email me at studywithjoanne@gmail.com or visit my Contact page for more ways to reach me.

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash